By Lyndah Malloy-Glover
On a cool October afternoon in 2011, I’m in a race with time because I ran into lunchtime traffic on my way to a 1:00 PM appointment to speak with guitar virtuoso, Stanley Jordan, at his hotel in downtown Jacksonville. Looking at the clock on the dashboard of my car, and it is saying 12:45 PM; my heart sank as I swerved to avoid hitting a pedestrian pushing a grocery buggy attempting to cross Union Street, in midday traffic, looking as frantic as I felt. “Ohmigoodness!” I asked myself, “Does he not see me? Please mister.” I shouted at the man with the buggy, “Stop. I don’t want to be the lead story on the six-o-clock news tonight,” as I continued to rush toward, in my mind, an annoyed Mr. Jordan. He would be annoyed because I was going to be late for this very important date. Dang it! With that resolve, I slowed my roll, took five deep breaths, forgave myself for being late, found a parking space, and walked slowly toward what became my most engaging interview to date.
Stanley Jordan is a phenomenal musician because he operates from his heart space. He is committed to making the kind of music that speaks to his core, the person within. Jordan is an enigma; you can’t put him in a box. He confronts convention and is comfortable in any musical setting from classical to pop-rock, straight ahead jazz or improvisational works. His September 27th release, Friends, on Mack Avenue Records and a scheduled appearance at the Ritz Theater on November 5, 201l, a stop on his tour in support of the album, is the reason I was sitting face-to-face with Stanley Jordan and had the opportunity to see just what Stanley Jordan was working with. Hey guys, the records he makes are great, but the magic on stage is hypnotic. He draws you into the music and you feel every note, every cord. I was mesmerized by his performance. You HAVE NOT experienced Stanley Jordan until you have experienced him live. That’s what I know.
The facts, the stats, and the perceptions of an artist by reviewers and music critics are readily accessible to us. We simply Google his or her name and their information appears. Much has been written about Jordan since his debut in 1985 with the gold-selling Grammy® nominated album, Magic Touch which brought him both immediate commercial and critical acclaim. Entertaining through music is what he does, but it is not exclusively what he does with the music he makes; check this out!
The Notes Speak.
It was not his music as an entertainer; it was his music as therapy that became the fertile ground for our conversation.
Jordan says, “What we call Music therapy today basically started around 1950 in the VA hospitals to work with veterans returning from WWII. That’s when the whole thing got started. Music has been used for the purpose of healing for a long time. However, they [the VA] studied the things they were doing scientifically. That is the modern movement we call Music Therapy. A lot of the stuff they were using in the beginning is appropriate for some of the issues vets are [currently] dealing with. So I thought that we’ve got all these people coming back now from Iraq and that perhaps it is sort of timely to bring some of that back.” I think it is.
My understanding of Music Therapy is pretty basic. I get that sound vibrates at frequencies as does color. I understand that our energy centers are opened, balanced, and cleared either with treatments like Reike, Healing Touch, and the practice of yoga. So, with music, what’s really happening?
“Music Therapy is about the use of the music and not just the music itself. In Music Therapy, any kind of music could potentially be therapeutic.” Okay, we’re talking Intentionality. “Yes, the intent and how you put it [music] to use. The example I want to give is that people assume that the music will be soothing, new age relaxing music; which in many cases it can be. But, more violent or aggressive music, such as death metal or gangster rap, if, for example, you are using it to gain trust and increase communication with a teenager who likes that music. But you can’t fake it. You have to get into it with them and share their musical world. That can go a long way toward breaking down barriers. Once you get to the level of working with people using Music Therapy, the possibilities are huge because anything that happens in life can have music involved as a treatment. Music can touch on every aspect.”
We are spirit beings living in a physical body. Music Therapy can and does address physical conditions that may have been the result of a stroke, an accident with head trauma, etc. However, we also must address the mental, emotional and spiritual bodies of the self and Music Therapy does that very well through making music [singing and playing], writing music [lyrics], as well as practicing music. The practice becomes a kind of a mantra, like Ohm. Jordan went on to say that music with words can be healing as well. Those songs, the lyrics, can tell our stories and we then feel that someone out there gets us and understands where we are emotionally and mentally. And as a participant, we can rewrite our scripts, thus opening the door to powerful changes in behavior patterns that may be the root cause of our imbalances, thus moving us steadily towards wellness.
Stanley, how do you do all of this? “You know, I don’t do it as much as I would like. Actually, that is one of the better ways for me to prepare for a gig. I remember doing this for a few days leading up to a gig in Seattle. I have some friends with a massage clinic. I couldn’t believe how well I played on the gig because I had to play everything real easy with a soft touch. And if I missed one note, that created a sort of stress. So I have to play in such a way that everything is perfect. So, that focuses me and relaxes me while I’m playing.” That is fantastic. “It is interesting too, the things that come up. We’ve had some really crazy things happen. We worked with this one guy and I remembered that I was talking to him through the music. Afterwards he said, ‘I really felt like you were talking to me.’ And I was. I was actually saying words to him [not speaking them] but playing the words on the guitar. I was saying like, it’s okay, you are a beautiful person, you can relax.” You can do that on the guitar? “Yeah – it’s like I was thinking the words and making it up as a song.” And the dynamic duo said in unison, “But I was only playing the notes. He heard the note and he knew that I was talking to him. It was my guitar.” That’s it, I exclaimed – the notes speak!
Stanley Jordan brings his understanding of music’s ability to allow the body to work with Spirit to do what it does naturally, given the right environment, the right mindset, and the right actions, and that is, to heal itself.
“Most people – if and when they find their calling – come to see themselves in some sort of service capacity. Right now, I feel a strong desire to bring my music to the people not just for entertainment, but also for inspiration and healing.” ~ Stanley Jordan